Monday, February 27, 2006

Of Cogs, Bozos, and Backbones

Okay, time for another post-break of random goodness...

The post The incident at the WinClient All Hands by Drie over at Of Cogs (and other aspects of life inside MS) provides some insight into a BrianV meeting and guest-star Kevin Johnson. Kevin: sounds like Papa needs to get a brand-new shtick before everyone knows the punch-line. Having clarity and enthralling indignation is easy come resignation-letter writing time. You could say this whole blog is one long resignation letter, should Microsoft not re-invent itself into the Next Microsoft.

I think everyone would be a lot more impressed with a contemporary update of that letter, written to Microsofties, our customers, our partners, and our shareholders. Not resigning, but frankly admitting where we were, where we are, and where we need to be to be successful and how we're getting there.

Is Google not all that it appears to be? I'm still waiting for that Mini-Google site to fire itself up. Perhaps being hosted at MSN Spaces for a delightful bit of irony? Anyway, Valley Wag is a fun read, between letting us know that Googlers have pay-raise issues, too, and that Larry Page is just this close from throwing chairs over bad 20% usage.

Mark Shavlik, an ex-Microsoftie and now CEO, has an interesting post: Microsoft employee perspectives. Snippet:

Rapid success is not always good, growth comes fast and internal structural changes come slower creating a company that could be out of balance. Hiring can go too fast, where the quality of available to hire talent is not large enough to meet the needs of the business. That is a tough point for a company. One of the HP founders apparently said a company should only grow as fast as it can find quality people to hire, but if you do that do you miss markets? I am not sure, but I have found its better to grow at the rate at which you can hire great people.

And some people were so desperate to fill positions they'd hire just about any bozo, or bozos to fill up the 3.0 quota to reward their current team. What do we do with the bozo's that have us going around making us flip the bozo-bit all the time? First rule: don't hire anymore bozos! I think we've already had a bozo explosion and now we're dealing with the aftermath from explosive growth and low standards. Anyway, we shouldn't want to do that again. Guy Kawasaki put up the initial post of how to avoid this mediocrity bozo bloomer, followed by Scoble's take from a Microsoft-bozo / anti-bozo point of view.

Though I'm afraid the bozos are going to starting harrumphing "Scrum! We got ourselves some scrum, right here in Salmonburg city!"

Results. Accountable results.

As for the occasional external commentary on the Mini-Microsoft blog, I'm seeing a lot more of this as of late:

[...] Same goes for blogging if the blog is relevant, although I doubt that Mini-Microsoft will be listing his on a resume anytime soon...:) Speaking of Mini, anybody notice lately that his/her blog has basically degenerated into a bitch-fest for MS employees? Mini throws out the raw meat for a few sentences or paragraphs, and the piling on in the comments commences immediately. I read the comments more than his stuff

This past post was probably a prime-candidate for that observation. I went into low-moderation mode, just about making it appear as if moderation had been turned off. Some folks put up some great discussions, and some folks went off on wild, argumentative tangents. And some folks broke out the "nyah-nyah" factor that at least makes everything else look better by comparison.

Anyway, it's an interesting conundrum that I've typed myself into. How can you be critical, perhaps even constructive in your criticism, and not become the patron saint of the eternal complainer? Let alone a negativity magnet? Perhaps the very people you're trying to hunt down and move out of the company? The whole "bad attitude" post was perhaps too oblique in taking that on.

To quote Jeff Raikes... it's a pickle.

As for this past post, there was a nice thread of comments discussing loosening up the internal hiring process. One commenter waved a yellow flag, though, cautioning about what it was like at Enron from a note put up by Malcolm Gladwell:

Among the most damning facts about Enron, in the end, was something its managers were proudest of. They had what, in McKinsey terminology, is called an "open market" for hiring. In the open-market system--McKinsey's assault on the very idea of a fixed organization--anyone could apply for any job that he or she wanted, and no manager was allowed to hold anyone back. Poaching was encouraged.

Yes, if we start trending towards that you'll see posters slapped up every week for each group with new, open positions, leading to wine and cheese events where you'll hear embolden tales of innovating against all the odds... so I don't think we need to go that far. People shouldn't be burning through the corporation leaping from group to group every quarter. But you shouldn't be inhibiting them, either, worried about the worse case offenders. All this delay of being able to interview represents one of the worse behaviors of fiefdom building... people getting lost inside the corporation once they are hired just isn't productive or worth all the money Microsoft and the shareholders have invested in hiring them and training them.

(Actually, that whole article from Malcolm Gladwell, The Talent Myth, reprinted from the New Yorker, is an excellent read.)

As for financials, Microsoft Nears Xbox Equilibrium has this nice little challenge to Liddell regarding Mr. Liddell's preference of buybacks over dividends:

...a large asset management company who questioned Liddell from the floor (and was thus anonymous under conference ground rules.) "Microsoft is still overcapitalized," he said. "And that's why the stock hasn't moved," he said.

He added that investors don't want to see Microsoft embark on a series of acquisitions. "The market fears that Microsoft will throw a lot of money to buy media or Internet-related companies. "We're strongly opposed," he said.

I hear backbone cracking into firm alignment! What have analysts told us before? A significant dividend on a reliable schedule would boost the stock. And, yes, please, no more acquisitions. How about this week's Microsoft Research Tech Fest show off all of the innovation we're quite capable of without having to go and buy companies? Every acquisition is a failure on our part to innovate and another reason we have to ask, "And why do we have all these people around?"

Finally, looks like BillG and I might agree on reducing the amount of folks working on software development at Microsoft. One commenter notes that LisaB's internal site has a version of that wonderful Ten Crazy Ideas paper that includes feedback, including from BillG and the ever so dreamy AlexGo. One the point about reducing dev team headcounts:

I think Mini would be heartened by one of Bill's comments regarding reducing headcounts on large dev projects:

BillG: “Headcount cuts. This is very tempting.”

Tempting indeed. Give into temptation! Give our bozos the bums rush to B-as-in-Bozo-FE!

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